Multiple strategies to take advantage of LNG jobs

Guest Commentary
By John Rustad Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation


There's been a lot of discussion recently about the potential for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in British Columbia to create meaningful jobs, and whether or not the Province - and my ministry in particular - is doing what it should to ensure that training for Aboriginal British Columbians will be available to take advantage of those jobs. I want to assure Aboriginal workers in northern B.C. that government is working hard to connect them with training and skills that will make sure they are first in line for the 100,000 LNG job openings expected.

I am pleased to note that this past month there was a skills training and employment event linked to LNG in Prince Rupert that was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (MARR) and the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It was an opportunity for people in the area to learn more about projected employment opportunities linked to LNG and current training programs that can help people access those opportunities. Various sectors participated, including First Nations, Aboriginal organizations, industry, business, training institutions, as well as government, and it provided a great opportunity for information sharing and networking.

Consider this: Over the next decade, we expect to see more than one million job openings in B.C. About 430,000 of those (43%) are expected to be in technical fields. Our government knows very well that the participation of Aboriginal people in the province's skills training programs is a critical component of filling these jobs.

The participation of Aboriginal people in skills training programs is critical to the economic success for B.C. as a whole. This is why Premier Christy Clark asked me to work with Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Shirley Bond, on increasing Aboriginal participation in our apprenticeship and skills training programs. We are building on the successes government-funded programs have seen over the past years.

Between 2006 and 2011, Aboriginal participation in apprenticeship training at post-secondary institutions increased 103%. In 2013-14, through the Industry Training Authority, our government is investing approximately $3.9 million in Aboriginal trades training programs. Then there's BladeRunners, an award-winning program that helps at-risk youth - the majority of whom are Aboriginal - through life and job-skills training, job coaching and certification courses. These are only some of the efforts happening right now.

The BC Natural Gas Workforce Strategy Committee has prepared an analysis as well as labour market outlook statistics on the opening of five LNG plants in northern B.C. by 2021. Based on that model, B.C. could see over 60,000 jobs at peak construction. Of those, 21,600 jobs could be directly involved in the building of LNG export facilities and associated pipelines during peak construction - expected to occur 2016-17.

A further 41,900 jobs could be created in the industries that supply goods and services during the construction phase at its peak, with another 75,000 jobs once the LNG projects are fully operational. That would include 2,400 permanent jobs to operate and maintain the plants and pipelines on an ongoing basis; 61,700 jobs to support LNG operations, including workers required to drill, produce, process and transport the natural gas required to feed the export facilities; and more than 11,000 jobs in industries benefiting from LNG workers spending their wages in the broader economy. These numbers highlight the enormity of the opportunity and current plans will help ensure we have the necessary information to align B.C.'s training system with these jobs.

Nowhere is the need to align training with the jobs of tomorrow more critical than in the LNG sector. No one solution will ensure that the workforce required to fulfil the LNG opportunity is available, skilled and productive.

Multiple strategies and actions on the local and larger fronts are required to see the fulfilment of the LNG opportunity and benefits, and working with First Nations to ensure they are able to take advantage of employment opportunities is a big part of our work to create a strong economy.

Make no mistake - the demand for labour in this sector is high, but our B.C. government has a plan that puts all British Columbians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, first in line for these jobs.

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